15th ESW Annual Conference - Sessions



Chris Alice Kratzer, Sarah Barr Engel, Miguel Fraga, Kavya Niranjan, Michael Vasudevan and Kyle Gracey | Thursday, April 22 | 1:00 PM ET

Meet the faces behind ESW! Join several ESW HQ volunteers and listen to why they chose to volunteer, why ESW and what they do in their daily lives. Get tips on how to find sustainable jobs or ways to make your job/life more sustainable. ESW-HQ is always looking for more volunteers to grow our organization and our programs! If you are interested in applying, reach out to apply@eswusa.org!


Sara Cavanaugh | Thursday, April 22 | 2:00 PM ET

The Clean Energy Transition is a battleground for technology, policy, and perception. As we accelerate toward a vision of the future, we wrestle with the reality of unanswered questions, increased costs, and the politics that drive them. Join me to discuss how utilities are moving from boring to cutting edge and what it will take to make our vision of a Clean Energy Future reality.


Matthew Gordon | Thursday, April 22 | 3:00 PM ET

One of the highest leverage ways of fighting climate change is through accelerating the pace of new technology. There is a huge need for technical talent to work on mission-critical climate tech to prevent and mitigate the looming climate catastrophe. But the climate tech space is highly fractured across a dozen verticals, and entering the field can be daunting, even for experienced engineers who are passionate about impact. We will discuss how the Climate Tech Action Network (www.climatetechaction.network) was founded in 2020 to help address these gaps, and make it easier for technologists and entrepreneurs to find meaningful, high-impact work in climate tech.


Jim Jones | Thursday, April 22 | 3:00 PM ET

Ridge Road Cycle Track, A Temporary Pop-Up Protected Bikeway Project in Lackawanna, NY; GObike Buffalo and the City of Lackawanna, NY have partnered to design and install a two-way protected bikeway on Ridge Road as part of effort to engage residents, businesses and street users in the principals of walkability and bikeabilty. The project is expected to remain in place for about two years while community input and community awareness adapt and assimilate to the change in travel patterns. The City of Lackawanna has been experiencing decline in their business district and feeling that truck traffic has imparted a significant detriment to their quality of life as a community. They reached out to GObike Buffalo, a Buffalo, NY based active transportation advocacy organization, for assistance with bringing about healthy change. The city had a “road diet” traffic study completed by others in May of 2020 which supported one travel lane in each direction. Ridge Road is a 46 feet wide (47 feet actual), 30 MPH urban principal arterial which was stripped with a double yellow centerline between NYS Rt 5 and South Park Avenue. The existing AADT was 12,666 in 2017. The 1.25 mile corridor has six traffic signals including the intersection at South Park Avenue. The city added a High Intensity Activated CrossWalK (HAWK) beacon in 2019 in the study segment to improve pedestrian crossing opportunity. Parking is generally permitted on both sides of the street. Hourly bus service is also provided along the study corridor. Additionally, the city is preparing to upgrade the traffic signals at Electric Avenue and South Park Avenue with high resolution video detection and adaptive traffic signal control. GObike provided the city with three different options for Ridge Road in May 2020 to advance discussion and review by city officials. Each option limited travel lanes to one in each direction. The first option included a protected two-way cycle track on the north side of the street which would entail restricting parking, the second option included parking protected bike lanes on each side and the third option included a parking protected bike lane on the south side and a buffered bike lane on the north side. The city selected the cycle track on the north side for best meeting their goals and objectives. https://gobikebuffalo.org/project/ridge-road-pop-up-protected-bike-lane/


Michael Shelly | Thursday, April 22 | 3:00 PM ET

This presentation will cover the economics involved in setting a price on carbon, and how pricing carbon can be used to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases, and thereby help reduce climate change. The topics covered in the presentation are: the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through decarbonization, the carbon tax and the mechanics of how it works, cap and trade (emissions trading) schemes and the mechanics of how they work, when to choose one or the other, carbon pricing initiatives around the world, and can we afford to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050?


Colin Huwyler | Thursday, April 22 | 4:00 PM ET

In 2003, armed with a beat up Jetta and unbridled determination, Colin Huwyler got to work. As a college freshman with an hour commute to the University of Buffalo, he wanted to find a way to cut his personal carbon footprint. He succeeded in converting his 98 VW to operate on vegetable oil, and found his lifelong passion at the same time. From this seed, Optimus Technologies was born, an EPA compliant automotive biofuel technology company. The idea began with Colin’s own vehicle, but like many others, he realized the problem was bigger than individual people. That’s why Optimus Technologies was founded to serve the commercial market. With US fleets consuming over 39 billion gallons of diesel fuel annually, the potential impact of offering national supply chains the opportunity to cut their carbon emissions by over 80% when switching to biodiesel is huge. Moreover, the patented Vector System technology created by Optimus can be integrated into existing trucks, allowing fleet managers to convert to biodiesel without investing in new vehicles. Colin would like to host a Q&A session at ESWcon21 to share his experience of starting a sustainable focused startup, it’s importance, and discuss the challenges in today’s society.


Scott Wolcott | Thursday, April 22 | 4:00 PM ET

Green walls are becoming increasingly popular as aesthetically pleasing architectural installations as well as and functional systems in sustainable urban building designs. However, utilization of green walls as an aqueous treatment option has been primarily limited to grey water. This study evaluates the effectiveness of an innovative green wall system to treat high organic strength wastewater from craft and micro-breweries. Raw brewery wastewater was continuously pumped from a 30 L sump to a vertical cylindrical test column. The column was filled with expanded glass media having a d50 = 12.2 mm. Experimental setups included: columns filled with media only; media with biofilm; media with plants; and media with plants and biofilm. The control was no media in the columns. Concentrations of total solids (TS), turbidity, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), and total nitrogen (N) were measured. Removal efficiency was greatest in columns media, plants and biofilm. After 24 hours, the removal efficiency of turbidity, BOD and N was 97%, 78%, and 88%. Interestingly, the removal of TS in all experimental setups was minimal, ranging from 0% to 19%. This novel application of green walls has potential to provide manufacturers of fermented beverages with a treatment system that has a low capital cost, is simple to operate, and has a small footprint, thereby avoiding expensive treatment processes and/or high sewer use fees.


Adams Hernandez Jimanez | Thursday, April 22 | 4:00 PM ET

Now days, the world has experiment an increase in investigation, development and implementation of electric power plants using renewable energy. Costa Rica has follow this line and specifically in Guanacaste province the geography and climatological conditions has allow the construction and operation of these. Starting from the inauguration of Arenal Hydroelectric Power Plant in Tilarán in 1979 until the inauguration of Las Pailas II Geothermal Power Plant in Liberia in 2019; Guanacaste has seen the construction of various renewable power plants that represents the 40% of total power energy production of Costa Rica. Also, is the only province in Costa Rica that has five different renewable energy sources use to produce electric power like hydroelectric (363 MW), geothermal (242MW), wind (350MW), biomass (52,5MW) and solar (6MW). Renewable power plants in Guanacaste allows to improve the electric energy production in Costa Rica decreasing the use of fossil fuel power plants and since 2015 until 2020, more than 98% of the energy comes from renewable energy. These conditions had been made due to a good planning and development of the national electric system, with major invest in renewable power plants likes wind and geothermal; also, the maintenance schedule due to demand and climatological conditions (dry and rainy) allows to alternate the operations between the renewable power plants. Another issues that allows to improve the operation of the renewable power plants making them economical attractive is the implementation of remote operation plants and unattended plants, letting operates various plants simultaneously from a centralize operation control room. For example, Pailas I Geothermal Power Plant are remote operate from Pailas II Geothermal Power Plant. Other example is Miravalles V Geothermal Power Plant and Miravalles Solar Plant, these two plants are locally unattended and operates remote from PG Miravalles I-II. These optimizations in maintenance and operation brings us a better future where we can produce all the energy demands in Costa Rica from renewable energy and eliminates the need of fossil fuel power plants.


Tina Li, Luke Miller & Kim Gaslowitz | Thursday, April 22 | 5:00 PM ET

Energy Products play an essential role in Tesla's vision of accelerating the world's transition to sustainable energy.  Three ESW alums will discuss different aspects of these products, from design to manufacturing and fleet monitoring, highlighting how these products can work together to improve grid reliability.


Anne Tatarsky | Thursday, April 22 | 7:00 PM ET

Discover the benefits of Peace Corps service. Join a local recruiter and returned Peace Corps volunteer to learn how you can make an impact in a community abroad using skills in engineering and STEM.  Becoming a Peace Corps volunteer can open doors for you and help you gain new skills and experiences that can advance your career. Ask questions, learn about what Peace Corps service is like, and gain a few tips to guide you through the application process.


Eric Albrecht & Shawn Kalyn | Thursday, April 22 | 8:00 PM ET

Life is made to last. Concrete is our world and our world is concrete. Concrete is one of the most-used materials in the world, second only to water. Votorantim Cimentos and other concrete and cement suppliers are committed to sustainability values on how concrete is made, placed and supports habitat resilience. This session will discuss sustainability with a focus on Global Warming Potential (GWP) reduction solutions in use today, and a future that can be implemented with the support of engineers, designers,  government agencies and society.  Tools are available to help us work toward life cycle assessment, carbon neutrality and circular economies. Real-life case studies will be discussed.


Tessa Weiss | Friday, April 23 | 1:00 PM ET

You have more power than you might think to motivate companies to speak up and support pro-climate policy. ClimateVoice is a new initiative with an urgent goal: to mobilize the voices of the current and future workforce to speak out on pro-climate policies. According to the IPCC, we need to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and 100% by 2050 to avoid the most dire outcomes. However, the broad and swift policy action needed to meet these ambitious goals is not happening. We desperately need companies to use their voice and lobbying dollars to support the passage of the policies we need. To incentivize companies to speak out, ClimateVoice aims to make a company's vocal support of pro-climate policy a priority of the workforce. We just launched our 1in5 Campaign, a target effort to get the five biggest tech companies to commit 1in5 of their lobbying dollars towards the pro-climate lobbying. Come learn about the current barriers facing the passage of pro-climate policy, the opportunity we have for change, and the actions you can take to motivate these changes, both in the tech sector and beyond! 


Robert Johnson | Friday, April 23 | 1:00 PM ET

Producing brewer’s malt is an energy intensive process that proceeds in four stages: steeping grain, stimulating germination, drying the green malt (high velocity warm air) and final cure (high temperatures). Malthouses typically use natural gas for the process; however, electricity has the greatest potential for improving process sustainability. Unfortunately, precise temperature control and high temperatures required in malting necessitate the use of inefficient electric elements. Our system was originally all-electric, utilizing an 8-element kiln drawing a 42 kW peak load and centrifugal blower (up to 3200cfm), resulting in average demands of 1500 kWh per 1-ton of grain malted. Niagara Malt was able to reduce electric consumption over 75% by installing a wood pellet boiler (205k btu), 500 gal hot water tank and hydronic heat exchanger to pre-heat kiln air. Electric elements are now used only in germination air warming or fine-tuning kilning air temperatures. Demand now ranges from 200 – 500 kWh/ton grain depending on malt variety and season. Wood pellets are a considered a renewable fuel source by the US-EPA; our recently installed 15 kW solar system allows Niagara Malt to generate more electricity than it currently uses.


Ryan McPherson | Friday, April 23 | 1:00 PM ET

Should a universities climate action plan lead to actual actions and outcomes? Of course, but in reality, many traditional climate action plans become static reports that notoriously sit on the shelf, fail to be fully integrated, lack broad campus engagement and fall short of sophisticated measurement (we know because we had one). This session will focus on our attempt to build a more engaging, interactive and ultimately more empowering climate action plan by leveraging visualization of data, storytelling and simplification of the implementation strategies to garner better engagement from our campus constituents. The presenters will elaborate on the step-by-step process including the development of an updated GHG baseline, stakeholder engagement for data collection, reduction strategies, messaging, and storytelling concepts. Challenges and success stories to create the final product will be shared, empowering the audience to avoid similar pitfalls while replicating successes. A portion of this presentation will be allocated to a live interaction and discussion


Amir Rezaei, Roxanne Button and Austin Izzo | Friday, April 23 | 4:00 PM ET

Today's high performance building must optimize in design, energy efficiency and architecture. As the field has grown, the tools and advancements used to develop buildings have changed. Join this discussion as two experts in the field discuss the process and tools required to design and build a high performance, more sustainable building.


Blake Jones | Friday, April 23 | 4:00 PM ET

We know you support sustainability, but is your money (and where you deposit it) doing the same?  Come learn about “sustainable banking” and Clean Energy Credit Union:  an online-only, not-for-profit, financial services cooperative (aka federally chartered credit union) that provides loans solely for EVs, e-bikes, solar, geothermal, and other green home improvements. Its checking accounts and savings accounts are federally insured, and the deposits are solely used to help others pursue their clean energy and energy-saving projects.


Mark Lowery | Friday, April 23 | 5:00 PM ET

Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) in July 2019. The CLCPA, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, represents the most ambitious and comprehensive climate and clean energy law in the nation. The law sets very aggressive greenhouse gas emission limits, requiring that emissions be reduced by 40 percent of their 1990 levels by 2030 and by 85% by 2050. In support of achieving the necessary GHG emission reductions, the CLCPA requires that 70% of electricity sold in New York is sourced from renewable resources by 2030 and that all electricity will come from zero-carbon sources by 2040. The law establishes a path toward economy-wide electrification, based on a power-generation sector that no longer emits greenhouse gases, helping to set New York on a path toward a net-zero economy by 2050. Mark Lowery, Assistant Director of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Office of Climate Change, will explain the CLCPA and the work currently underway to develop a plan to achieve the CLCPA’s requirements.


Chris Magwood | Friday, April 23 | 6:00 PM ET 

The "embodied carbon emissions" from building materials has recently been shown to be much larger than we initially assumed, and its timing as up-front emissions mean that this source of GHGs is crucial to address to meet any of our local and international climate targets. Most work on the issue of embodied carbon has been focused on reductions. But we can be a lot more ambitious than that: we can design and construction buildings that offer net carbon storage. Climate positive buildings! Based on the results of a study called "Low Rise Buildings as a Climate Change Solution" this presentation will show how embodied carbon reductions can be combined with carbon-storing materials to create climate positive buildings. Case studies of buildings large and small will demonstrate that this is not just a future aspiration, but possible for us to achieve, at scale, today.


John Atkinson | Friday, April 23 | 6:00 PM ET

The United States is comfortable with the way waste is handled. We put our trash and recycling in bins, roll them to the curb, and then ... out of sight, out of mind. But, many of these systems are failing due to global market changes and new demands associated with climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. This talk will describe current research taking place at the University at Buffalo related to being proactive within the broad field of waste management in the US. Specific topics to be described include Plastics Recycling, Waste to Energy as an alternative to landfilling for municipal solid waste, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions.


Daniel Ramirez | Friday, April 23 | 6:00 PM ET

In order to slow down negative global anthropogenic effects such as global climate change and the destruction of ecosystems, clean, renewable, and efficient alternative energy sources are needed to replace the existing pollutant energy sources. Double Energy Input is an invention that gathers two renewable energy resources: hydroelectrical power and geothermal power. This model is designed to generate between 1,200 MW – 1,500 MW of power in the hydroelectrical phase. Moreover, it will generate about 4.86 tons of salt per second as this invention utilizes the sea as a natural reservoir. Additional energy will be produced by supercharging the hot water at the bottom of an artificial dam with heat and pressure and running a vapor power plant. DEI model provides an alternative system for producing clean and renewable energy with two abundant resources, seawater and natural geothermal gradients. Further research is necessary to determine the technical and financial feasibility.


Nick Gilewski | Saturday, April 24 | 2:00 PM ET

At this very moment, the power grid, upon which the citizens of the U.S.A. and the world rely, is in a state of major transition. Energy cost fluctuations and bulk-power market volatility have increased, often the result of the proliferation of renewable energy and the decreased use of fossil fuel-based energy. While renewable energy is a boon to our environment, many contemporary policy-makers identify that fossil fuel-based energy may still need to be employed to keep the power systems functioning because they contend that, “… the sun does not always shine and the winds also become calm.” This researcher investigated and analyzed renewable energy data sets in both regulated and deregulated states and applied a variety of statistical treatments to multiple power industry, government, and other public references. The intent of this research is to explicate the contrasts and use implications between fossil fuel-based traditional energy and renewable energy in regulated and deregulated states. Encompassed within this study is a renewable energy policy analysis and the influence it has on both regulated and deregulated energy markets.


Sebastien Selarque | Saturday, April 24 | 2:00 PM ET

Investigating the behind-the-meter customer value of distributed energy resources and their participation in grid service programs.


Annie Agle | Saturday, April 24 | 3:30 PM ET

The ILO estimates that over 130 million people experience labor and human rights abuses within global supply chains. Brands' largest social and environmental inputs occur within the supply chain. Yet, sustainability strategies are still failing to address these systemic issues. This talk will share insights into how collaboration, transparency, design and policy can help address issues in the supply chain. Annie Agle is the Senior Director of Impact and Sustainability at Cotopaxi and is passionate about corporate social responsibility and mission-oriented brands. 


Derek Nichols | Saturday, April 24 | 3:30 PM ET

The COVID pandemic has placed an already fragile food system under immense strain and the effects are being expressed locally. The long lines of cars to emergency food pantries, the unjust spread of COVID to production line employees, and a restaurant industry that has taken an economic hit are just some of the problems caused by the pandemic. Add all of the other dilemmas that our food system faced pre-COVID, like issues of access, obesity, and sustainability, you have one wicked problem. So what are the solutions? What are the roles of engineers in combating these issues? This session will be an interactive ideation workshop where participants will be given one case study highlighting a problem in our food system and work together to fix it using engineering as a lens.


Nathan Williams | Saturday, April 24 | 3:30 PM ET

The demand side of the electricity access challenge in Africa: thinking beyond connections While access to electricity remains a major challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, significant progress has been made in rolling out new connections using innovative new off-grid technologies and business models as well as traditional grid extensions. The drive for universal access is underpinned by the assumption that these new connections will be harnessed to advance social and economic development. However, data from both national electric utilities and off-grid electricity service providers show low levels of electricity consumption and stagnant growth in newly connected communities. This state of affairs suggests that, while electricity access may be necessary for development, it is not by itself sufficient. For electrification programs to successfully foster development, more attention is required on the demand side of the electricity access problem. This talk presents findings from a set of studies on the demand side challenges and opportunities for electrification programs in East Africa.


Amanda Pike, Tracy Skalski, and Austin Izzo | Saturday, April 24 | 5:00 PM ET

As global warming and climate change become increasingly worse, the sustainability world is trying harder to secure our future. You may be asking yourself, where do we go from here? In this panel we will hear from experts in the field on the different roles that private and public sectors play in creating a more sustainable future. Learn about the future of sustainability and the steps you can take to ensure an equitable future for all.


Ana Alvarado and Vanesa Meneses Mora | Saturday, April 24 | 6:00 PM ET

New Zealand is striving to produce 100% of its electricity through renewable resources. Currently, over 80% of the total energy production comes from renewables; however, the remaining amount seems to be very challenging. Costa Rica and Iceland have similar characteristics to New Zealand, such as abundant natural resources, large hydropower and geothermal generation, and small populations. Most importantly, they have already achieved the goal of 100% renewable generation that new Zealand strives to attain. This paper uses predominantly qualitative analysis to compare the energy transition of three renewable-rich countries, with very different policies, views, and approaches to electricity generation and administration. The primary purpose is for New Zealand to learn from Costa Rica and Iceland’s energy transition to reach its goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050. The method used for this research is a cross-case analysis; it compares aspects such as electricity market structure, policies, people’s attitude towards renewables, environmental, social and economic challenges, innovations, etc. The purpose is to determine the best practices and, in a general way, determine if New Zealand is the right candidate for the application of these methods.


Sarah Ray | Saturday, April 24 | 6:00 PM ET

Dr. Ray will discuss her book, A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet, which is an existential toolkit for the climate generation. The book threads together different aspects of the field of interdisciplinary environmental humanities, including social movement theory, environmental justice, climate psychology, mindfulness, and affect theory, to outline strategies for coping with anxiety, grief, despair, and other responses to the climate crisis and related crises, coronavirus and ongoing struggles for racial justice. Ray will talk how a new generation of young activists is changing the climate movement and why it’s so important for them and for the planet that they cultivate intellectual and existential resilience. How can educators help young people learn how to imagine, desire, and thrive in a climate-changed future, instead of fear it? How can environmental educators rise to this occasion and honor this generation’s unique situation and capacities? What is needed in this historical moment to bridge social justice and environmental sustainability in ways that support the existential health of the next generation of leaders?


Brody Rountree | Saturday, April 24 | 6:00 PM ET

“Bike for the Trees” is a social entrepreneurial and sustainable engineering and design project that modifies lightweight mountain bikes with pedal-powered augers for low-impact assistance in reforestation projects. The modified bikes (patent pending) are designed to be deployed by volunteer mountain bikers through the organization “Bike for the Trees,” a non-profit network of bikers who organize the replanting and restoration of otherwise hard-to-reach mountain slopes destabilized by wildfires in Colorado. With U.S. Forest Service replanting underresourced and some areas too difficult to reach via conventional vehicles, “Bike for the Trees” fills the gap. Tree-planting bicycle prototypes, to be tested in Colorado, could ideally be modified and used in other fire-damaged areas across the American West. This project engages mechanical engineering, environmental sustainability, innovation and design, climate action, and social entrepreneurialism. In his digital presentation, project-creator, bike designer, engineering high school student, and mountain biker Brody Rountree will outline his design concept, project steps, challenges and goals, while inviting feedback from fellow ESW members. This presentation offers a case study in how engineers working toward a more sustainable world can make a difference through design.


Melissa Lee | Saturday, April 24 | 7:00 PM ET

Do you want to make an impact but not sure how? Join The GREEN Program's Founder and CEO, Melissa Lee, as she shares her personal journey founding The GREEN Program, an award-winning experiential education program for future sustainability leaders. Hear about how Melissa traveled around the world at the age of 19 to discover global sustainable development practices and how you can too.  Learn about what it takes to turn your ideas into reality, and why your innovative ideas and a growth mindset is critical for a sustainable future.